THE Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday — exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)
These events constitute major milestones in the turbulent history of race and democracy in America, and the undeniable success of the civil rights movement — culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 — warrants our attention and elation. Yet the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel still haunt us: “The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King.”
Rabbi Heschel spoke those words during the last years of King’s life, when 72 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks disapproved of King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to eradicate poverty in America. King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” He called America a “sick society.” On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.” […]
Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians). Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists. Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law — in the name of the “war” on drugs — have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration. And poverty is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people. […]
The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts’ stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King’s four catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.
“Will New Yorkers actually follow Mayor Bloomberg’s advice and prepare? Buy new batteries, canned food, extra water, duct tape; pack a “go bag” and leave it by the door?
Somehow, that doesn’t seem likely. As blue staters, we have come to associate the death and devastation caused by Katrina more with failed political leadership than with the fury of a big storm. And since 9/11, hurricanes seem less threatening precisely because you can prepare for them. You can study their projected track, clock their wind speed, and predict the time of landfall—all from the comfort of your den. In an age of sudden events that change the world in an instant, the approach of a hurricane seems old-world stately, like a transatlantic crossing on an ocean liner. We prepare for the unthinkable (or think we do); and blithely shrug off the known. One day, although maybe not this Sunday, we’ll learn.”—John Seabrook | The New Yorker
Following a six-month long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress released a 130-page report today which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America. The authors — Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and myself [Faiz Shakir] — worked to expose the Islamophobia network in depth, name the major players, connect the dots, and trace the genesis of anti-Muslim propaganda.
“There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.”—Richard Dawkins
“Persons who would never have been taken seriously became famous. Harshness mellowed, separations fused, intransigents made concessions to popularity, tastes already formed relapsed into uncertainties… There is nothing one can hold responsible for this, nor can one say how it all came about. There are no persons or ideas or specific phenomena that one can fight against. There is no lack of talent or goodwill or even of strong personalities. There is just something missing in everything, though you can’t put your finger on it, as if there had been a change in the blood or in the air; a mysterious disease has eaten away the previous period’s seeds of genius, but everything sparkles with novelty, and finally one has no way of knowing whether the world has really grown worse, or oneself merely older.”—Robert Musil, in The Man Without Qualities. (via mills)
"Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the two richest men in the United States, each have around $50 billion. […] In fact, there are people who rank far below Gates and Buffet in net worth, who still make several million dollars a day, every day of the year, and have throughout the current recession.
And there is no reason to think that we have reached the upper bound of wealth inequality, as not every breakthrough in technology creates new jobs. The ultimate labor saving device might be just that—the ultimate labor saving device. Imagine the future Google of robotics or nanotechnology: Its CEO could make Steve Jobs look like a sharecropper, and its products could put tens of millions of people out of work. What would it mean for one person to hold the most valuable patents compatible with the laws of physics and to amass more wealth than everyone else on the Forbes 400 list combined?
How many Republicans who have vowed not to raise taxes on billionaires would want to live in a country with a trillionaire and 30 percent unemployment? If the answer is “none”—and it really must be—then everyone is in favor of “wealth redistribution.” They just haven’t been forced to admit it.”